(St. Paul) — Poor decision making by Gov. Tim Walz, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, and the Minneapolis City Council exacerbated violence, property damage, and civil unrest during the Minneapolis riots that took place at the end of May and early June, according to a new report released jointly today by the Minnesota Senate’s Transportation and Public Safety Committees.
According to the report, Gov. Walz, his administration, and Mayor Frey failed to realize the seriousness of the riots and danger to Minnesotans if the rioters were not confronted and stopped, and even once they arrived at that realization, they failed to act in a timely enough manner. The report found that the destruction of the Third Precinct would not have occurred, and rioting would not have escalated as quickly as it did, had Gov. Walz and Mayor Frey acted faster and more decisively.
The report also makes a number of recommendations that policymakers can implement to improve the state’s reaction and prevent future peaceful protests from devolving into violence and lawlessness. These recommendations cover a number of areas, including law enforcement training and equipment; the responsibilities of the governor and city mayors; expectations for the Department of Public Safety; and social injustice.
“One central theme emerged fairly quickly during our hours of testimony: the governor’s slow decision making caused the riots to be far, far worse than they should have been,” said Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson), chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. “It is my sincere hope that future governors and legislators will use the recommendations in this report to fix the mistakes that were made last May. Peaceful protestors deserve to have their voices heard without the public fearing for the safety and security of their communities.”
“The number one role of government is to keep its citizens safe,” said Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove), chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. “A careful examination of the events that took place following the tragic death of George Floyd shows that the state’s crisis response needs significant improvement. The aim is not to relitigate the past, but rather help us prevent riots like this from happening in the future.”
“For nearly a week at the end of May, Minnesotans watched in horror each night as Minneapolis descended further into chaos,” said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake). “They were begging for leadership that took far too long to arrive — an unacceptable reality that must be addressed and fixed. Like anything else in life, the only way to improve is by studying what went wrong and what went right. Senator Newman, Senator Limmer, and their respective committee members did a terrific job, and the recommendations in their committees’ report will help Minnesota avoid similar tragedies in the future.”
The main themes that led the Joint Committee to the conclusions and recommendations found in the report were:
- Failure to Lead: Executive leadership at the state and local level failed to distinguish between demonstrators and rioters. Furthermore, leaders failed to provide the guidance Minnesotans expect from their offices.
- Philosophical Conflict Caused a Hesitation to Confront Ideological Allies: Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and elected local leaders identified with the causes promoted by the demonstrators, causing them to lose sight of their responsibility to protect the public from criminal acts committed during the riots.
- Underestimation of the Escalation and Organization of the Riots: Governor Walz did not realize the severity of events as they unfolded, resulting in a delayed reaction and increased violence.
- Refusal to Confront Criminal Violence with Force: Gov. Walz and Mayor Frey initially chose to negotiate with and appease the rioters rather than give law enforcement the authority to confront criminal acts with enough force to restore law and order. A primary responsibility of the Office of the Governor of the State of Minnesota and local elected officials is to protect the public. Inaction on the part of state and local officials led to an increase in violence.
The report is the culmination of four joint committee hearings investigating a number of aspects of the riots, including destruction to small businesses, damage to Capitol property, the state’s response, and highway closures. The Joint Committee’s conclusions and recommendations are supported by over 350 fact citations from the hearings, press conferences, news articles, data practice requests, extensive testimony from witnesses, and dozens of pages of written testimony.
Read the full report here.